Inter – Roma Preview: European hopes on the line in huge San Siro clash

Rudi Garcia’s men are fighting stay in the Champions League spots while the Nerazzurri chase down the top six

Roma will aim to return to winning ways at Inter and quell fears that Napoli could pip them to the final Champions League qualification spot in Serie A.

Rudi Garcia’s team repeated a frustratingly familiar theme of their campaign last time out, drawing 1-1 with Atalanta at the Stadio Olimpico after German Denis’ penalty cancelled out a third-minute spot-kick from Francesco Totti.

It was Roma’s second consecutive stalemate and their 10th draw in 15 Serie A games since the turn of the year.

Napoli lie five points back in fourth with seven games remaining and further dropped points this weekend would leave the capital club in an increasingly uncomfortable position having already fallen behind city rivals Lazio on goal difference.

Nevertheless, Roma find themselves in a somewhat enviable situation compared to Inter, who lie 10th in the standings as they play out the final exchanges of a fourth consecutive trophyless season.

Victory is a must for Roberto Mancini’s men if they are to stoke their dwindling hopes of Europa League qualification.

Last weekend’s goalless draw against bitter rivals Milan added a further layer of frustration, although the fact it was only their fifth home clean sheet of the Serie A campaign pointed to where the true problems lie for Mancini – a man previously synonymous with turning out miserly defensive units during his coaching career.

Like Mancini, Davide Santon has returned for a second spell with Inter this term and the full-back offered backing to his coach.

“The manager is a lovely man,” Santon told SportMediaset. “He talks to the players a lot and he’s won things wherever he’s been. I think he’s the right man to take us forward.”

“We’re still trying to gel, a lot of new players have come in and the team is completely different to the Inter side I played in four years ago. We’re trying to give the team a new identity and the coach is working on that too.”

Chile international Gary Medel is unavailable to Mancini due to yellow-card accumulation, although Fredy Guarin and Marcelo Brozovic return from disciplinary indiscretions of their own.

Roma defender Davide Astori is suspended, with Kostas Manolas poised to take his place at centre-back.

Midfielder Miralem Pjanic is back in training having missed the Atalanta match and could return to the Roma engine room alongside Daniele De Rossi (back), although Gervinho (hamstring) is set to remain on the sidelines.

Santon: Kovacic will be world class

The Croatia internatonal has been in good form for Inter and his team-mate believes he has what it takes to be one of the very best around

Inter defender Davide Santon has tipped Croatia international Mateo Kovacic to be one of the best in the world.

The 20-year-old playmaker has been one of the few bright sparks in what has been a difficult season for the club who sit 10th in Serie A after 23 matches – 10 points behind Napoli who occupy the final Champions League place.

And Santon believes the former Dinamo Zagreb man has what it takes to become one of the game’s greats.

“He’s a young lad and has the talent to become a world-class player,” Santon told Sky Sport Italia. “His time will come, mark my words.”

Santon went on to pledge his support to new coach Roberto Mancini, who returned to the club for his second stint in charge at San Siro in November but managed just two victories in his first 10 Serie A games.

“Mancini has a wealth of experience and has won so much during his career. He gives us such a boost – we’re a young, growing team,” said Santon, who is targeting a third-straight league victory when his side visit Cagliari on Monday.

“We’re determined to win our third game on the spin. Cagliari is a big match, especially as we want to go into Thursday against Celtic in the Europa League on a high.”

Ben Arfa, Matri and the panic buys of the transfer window

Goal picks out five of the most baffling deals which occurred in the mid-season market…

Deadline day might have been a bit of a dud, but there were still plenty of scraps for the more worried clubs to feed on throughout January and into the start of February.

As is always the case in the mid-season transfer window, there were plenty of players who seemed mismatched with the club who snatched them up, more often than not in a panic as they seek to turn around wavering form without proper consideration.

Goal looks at the five most eyebrow-raising deals which took place over the past month…


Davide Santon was an unwanted man at Newcastle United. Although hardly a bad player, he was one of Alan Pardew’s few hands-on signings and the coach’s departure for Crystal Palace left his place at St James’ Park in doubt.

Inter, whom he left in 2011, largely had an impressive transfer window – with Xherdan Shaqiri one of the standout signings of any club – but returning the Italian full-back to San Siro was a bizarre decision.

Santon has played just 59 minutes of football for Newcastle this season, in an FA Cup defeat to Leicester City last month, having been out injured since the start of the summer. Before that, he was usually suspect in a defence that was notorious for leaking goals.


Another Newcastle United outcast, Hatem Ben Arfa’s career has been in a downwards spiral for 18 months and hit a new low in the mid-season transfer window. The France international was frozen out of the Magpies squad last season due to his lethargic performances which reportedly riled team-mates and his coach.

A loan to Hull City in the summer was supposed to revitalise him but he flopped enormously. In swooped Nice to offer him a lifeline in January, but a total oversight meant that he would be unable to play for them this season as he’d already played for Hull and Newcastle’s Under-21 team.

In defence of Ben Arfa and Nice, the LFP ruling was harsh and ignored the English FA’s backing that his appearance for Newcastle’s youth team was not competitive. But rules are rules and it’s baffling nobody thought to check before offering him a deal. Nice have subsequently torn up his contract and he’s threatened to retire at the age of 27.


Juventus are top of Serie A and have won three successive Scudetti en route to total dominance in Serie A. Some have questioned why they continue to fail in Europe, then – but signings such as Alessandro Matri provide a clue as to why they’re still not thriving in the Champions League.

Matri, to be fair, has not been awful this season. His seven goals in 16 games for Genoa in Serie A in 2014-15 suggest he still has a knack of scoring and he was only brought in as a replacement for the outgoing Sebastian Giovinco. But he is not someone who will remotely improve Massimiliano Allegri’s squad.

For a club looking to blow Roma out of the water in the second half of the campaign and hoping to crack Europe for the first time since their return to the top in Italy, Juve’s lack of ambition on the transfer front – underlined by Matri – is remarkable.


Everton’s Premier League season has been startlingly poor. They are closer to the bottom of the table than eighth place and their only chance of continental football next season is likely to be if they win the Europa League.

This made them prime suspects to scour the market in search of someone to boost their chances of avoiding a relegation fight. Tottenham benchwarmer Aaron Lennon was that man.

Lennon has barely featured beyond occasional substitute showings for Spurs in 2014-15 and is lacking in form and fitness. The comical photos that emerged of the England international looking thoroughly miserable while posing at Everton suggested he was far from pleased to be hauled up to Goodison Park. One of the few notable transfers of deadline day was not necessarily one of the best.


Yakubu has been a familiar face in England since his move to Portsmouth in 2003. He subsequently starred for Middlesbrough, Everton, Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers before choosing to continue his career in China.

But the 32-year-old, who spent a short time in Qatar before cutting ties with Al Rayyan, decided it was time to return to British shores with Reading on transfer deadline day.

The ex-Nigeria international is expected to be a flop at the Madejski Stadium. He’s simply not likely to be fit for the rigours of second-tier English football and the 16th-placed club will be hard-pushed to bring match-winning performances from the striker, irrespective of his experience.

Santon: I was not forced to join Inter

The full-back has made it clear that he is happy to be back at the club where he rose to prominence after a spell in England

Davide Santon has insisted that Newcastle United did not force him into a move back to Inter and denied that he initially turned down the chance to return to Serie A.

Inter confirmed the capture of Santon on an initial loan deal, with an option to make the deal permanent, on deadline day on Monday.

The transfer came after Santon’s girlfriend claimed via Twitter that Newcastle left the 24-year-old with no other option but to leave for Inter, while there were also rumours that Santon had initially rejected the Nerazzurri’s offer, but he has now used social media to clear the air.

“There has been a bit of confusion over the last few hours with people saying I first rejected Inter’s offer, then was forced to come here by Newcastle,” Santon wrote on Facebook.

“None of that is true. I never turned down Inter. As the negotiations all happened on deadline day, I just asked for a couple of hours to talk about it with my family and see what they thought…

“After talking to my girlfriend and my parents, all together we decided it would be a fantastic choice and therefore here I am ready to begin with my new number 21 jersey.”

Santon made 82 Premier League appearances time for Newcastle following his arrival from Inter in 2011.

Official: Santon leaves Newcastle for Inter loan

The full-back has failed to make a single Premier League appearance this season and will now spend the remainder of the campaign in Serie A

Newcastle full-back Davide Santon has returned to former club Inter on loan for the remainder of the season, with the option to make the move permanent.

The France international found first-team opportunities limited this season, failing to feature in the Premier League with only only outing coming in the FA Cup third-round loss to Leicester City.

A club statement read: “Newcastle United can confirm that Davide Santon has joined Inter Milan on loan for the remainder of the 2014/15 campaign with an option to buy at the end of the season.

“The 24-year-old Italian defender joined the Magpies from the same club in August 2011.”

Santon had confirmed the move earlier on Monday, writing on his Facebook page: “Life is strange… I never expected to return.

“Thanks Newcastle and thanks to all the fans for these 3 and a half years together… we’ve spent many good times…. This city and this team will always remain in my heart.

“I start a new adventure…. I’m happy to return to Inter… There I started my career and there I lived so many important moments…. I will give my best to repay the faith.”